In general, my study of Coptic identity is always framed in relation to questions of national belonging and the homeland, because I believe that you can’t understand Copts without understanding Egypt and vice versa.
In this recorded public history lecture, Michael Akladios speaks of Copts in Egypt and contrasts the democratic promise of the early twentieth century with the rise of discrimination and harassment, leading eventually to persistent persecution of numerical, linguistic, racial, and/or religious minorities by a dominant majority that is institutionalized by the state.
Through intimate oral histories, Coptic Queer Stories helps uncover how migration affects culture, and how community may be inspired or restrained by tradition. I believe these unheard and unique perspectives only make Coptic cultures richer, and perhaps healthier, as we move toward inclusivity.
I try to explain that Copts are not Western Christians lost in the Middle East, or living relics of “one of the oldest Church in the World.” At the same time, I don’t want to minimize the violence and discrimination Copts suffer. It is an exercise at equilibrium which is sometimes difficult.
I think the Coptic identity is a dynamic and transforming concept, and that it is our job—as historians—to show how it has changed in response to different events, challenges, and opportunities.
By bringing the ‘extreme’ case of Waguih Ghali to the forefront, I would like to think out loud about the other ‘Waguihs’ who are not able to defining some of their relationships and interactions with the Coptic tradition of khidma. I wish to point to the stories of Coptic Christians who accept the fact that their lives- or at least some aspects of their everyday relationships- do not reflect how they are identified. Yet their stories wrongly contribute to the insistence on a hegemonic identification process.
For Coptic immigrants, cultural diversity is indeed a fact of life. Thank you to all those who have participated and a warm welcome to all those hearing about us for the first time. We look forward to many more years of collaboration and growth.
Drawing on themes outlined in Candace Lukasik’s recent review of the Copts in Modernity Conference, this brief essay seeks to expand the conceptualizations of Coptic reform in the modern period. Examining a Coptic organization’s growth following their non-cooperation with Protestant expectations represents an interesting alternative to dominant teleological narratives of aligning Coptic ‘renaissance’ to a Western missionary or colonial source. The story of Al-Asdiqa’ allows us to consider how such groups may have co-opted the language of modernity to define reform on their terms.
On the surface, St. Athanasius comes across as a figure of resistance, keeping the faith against unfaithful emperors and heretical Christians. Yet, much of his legacy is missing from such accounts and may be revealed in the nuances of his story. One piece of his legacy that I aim to highlight and to show as relevant to Copts today is his responses to calls for unity; when he chose to join hands and when he chose to walk away.
For "Arrivals and Departures: the Journeys of the Copts and their Artifacts," attendees were invited to reflect on their journeys, write a short note, and then place it on a mirror for the next participant to reflect and add upon; like ships passing in the night. These ephemeral memories stuck to a mirror only briefly, now transformed to a digital medium and retold, carry with them the experiences of Coptic emigres who’ve come to call Canada home.